How Nanning visit could change Bundaberg forever
BUNDABERG Regional Council is on a mission to find a pair of koalas for Nanning Zoo, with Chinese city officials hoping Bundaberg can deliver the highly revered animals.
It was an eye-opening trip to Nanning led by Deputy Mayor Bill Trevor with government officials eager to cement the sister city relationship through many sectors including horticulture, education and tourism.
But it was the clear from the moment they landed, nabbing a pair of koalas would dominate most conversations.
China regard the koala as Australia's national treasure akin to the panda.
"They have a site next to their panda cage, which says 'awaiting koalas from Australia',” Cr Trevor said.
Cr Trevor said he would "bend over backwards” to try deliver on Nanning's request.
"There is a city in China that has the biggest breeding koala program outside of Australia,” he said.
"We are exploring to get a pair of koalas from there to Nanning.”
But the six-day tour wasn't all about koalas.
Cr Trevor said the delegation, which included councillors Greg Barnes and Scott Rowelson and CEO Stephen Johnston, discovered many opportunities which could shape Bundaberg's future.
A Nanning report provided to the NewsMail details the areas where council see opportunities to drive the region's economy for decades.
Tourism and marketing
The biggest take away from the trip was that the Chinese are fascinated by our region, especially our proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.
But Cr Trevor said more must be done to market directly to this ever-expanding market, which could inject millions into our economy.
"A lack of upper-class accommodation in Bundaberg is big drawback,” he said.
"These tourists are used to high-rise accommodation with restaurants.”
Council will identify areas along the riverbank and parts of Bargara and Burnett Heads where it will allow multiple-storey hotels to cater to visitors.
A thriving, cashed up Chinese middle class is looking for places to invest and travel, and Bundaberg faces stiff competition from across Australia and the world.
"We have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and if we want to create jobs we need the investment and the overseas interest,” Cr Trevor said.
Cr Trevor witnessed an impressive Victorian Government presentation to Nanning showcasing that state to prospective tourists.
"We think the Queensland Government should do something similar,” he said.
South Australia is bracing for an influx of Chinese tourists following in the footsteps of megastar Huang Xiaoming, an ambassador for the state.
The 40-year-old actor, singer and philanthropist has about 54million social media followers on Weibo, in the celebrity-infatuated Chinese market.
The move did not go unnoticed by council who hope something similar can happen in the Sunshine State.
A visit to a Minzhulu Primary School, Sino-Canadian International College and Guangxi University has convinced the council strengthening the bond between our education providers is must.
St Luke's Anglican School has shown interest in student exchanges while CQUniversity campus hopes to grow its already strong exchange program.
"A lot of their students want to come here and study English but also learn about Australia and our region,” Cr Trevor said.
"The economic value is those students need accommodation and food will spend that money here.”
Cr Trevor said discussions with the college and university proved fruitful with hopes to foster greater exchange programs.
Bundaberg's rich knowledge of sugarcane farming could come in handy as Nanning is surrounded by cane farmers eager to learn more.
Nanning is keen to have a delegation of Bundaberg sugar representatives visit the city and provide input on pest control and new technologies in harvesting equipment.
"We think there is an opportunity for our sugar people to speak to theirs and that could lead to jobs down the track,” he said.
Councillor Greg Barnes will chair a new protocol committee to make sure overseas delegates are treated with the highest level of respect.
"I think we are bit more casual with how we look after them,” Cr Trevor said.
The council delegation was humbled by the kindness of their host's generosity and want the same reciprocated when they visit
Cr Barnes said the aim was to make official visitors comfortable when they visit in the future.